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Gertrude Hadley Jeannette

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Information about Gertrude Hadley Jeannette

Profile image of Gertrude Hadley Jeannette

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Actress
Stage Director
Playwright

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Purple
Favorite Food:
Greens (Mixed), Cornbread
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
Go Well And Stay Well.

Birthplace

Born:
11/28/1914
Birth Location:
Urbana, Arkansas

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Actress
Stage Director
Playwright

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Purple
Favorite Food:
Greens (Mixed), Cornbread
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
Go Well And Stay Well.

Birthplace

Born:
11/28/1914
Birth Location:
Urbana
See how Gertrude Hadley Jeannette is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Playwright, producer, director, and actress of the stage and screen, Gertrude Hadley Jeannette, was born in Urbana, Arkansas, on November 28, 1914, to Willis Lawrence Hadley and Salley Gertrude Crawford Hadley. Jeannette was raised in Arkansas where she attended Dunbar High School in Little Rock. Just before her high school graduation, Jeannette decided that she wanted to get married instead of attending Fisk University, as she had previously planned; she and Joe Jeannette, II, a prizefighter and the president of the Harlem Dusters, a motorcycle club, eloped to New York City in 1934.

In New York City, Jeannette learned to drive; in 1935 she became the first woman to get a license to drive a motorcycle. In 1942, because of the shortage of male taxicab drivers caused by the war, Jeannette became one of the first women to drive a cab in New York City. During this time, Jeannette decided to further her education; she took bookkeeping classes in the basement of Abyssinian Baptist Church, and speech classes at the American Negro Theatre in order to remedy her speech impediments. In 1945, Jeannette was cast in the lead role in Our Town; in 1950, she performed in her first play, This Way Foreward. That same year, Jeannette and Fred O’Neil appeared on television in James Weldon Johnson’s Gods Trombone on CBS’s General Electric Hour; she had replaced Pearl Bailey, who was originally cast in that role. As a result, Jeannette continued to work both in the theatre and in film and television; she went on to play roles in Broadway plays such as Lost In The Stars, Amen Corner, and The Great White Hope. Some of Jeannette’s film credits included Shaft, Black Girl, and Cotton Comes To Harlem.

In 1979, Jeannette founded the H.A.D.L.E.Y. Players (Harlem Artists Development League Especially for You) in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City. The mission of the H.A.D.L.E.Y. Players was to give artists a chance to develop their talents and skills in the theatre, and to enrich the cultural life in Harlem. Jeannette went on to direct, produce, and write her own plays, as well as the works of other playwrights.

Jeannette was presented with several awards for her work and accomplishments. In 1991, Jeannette was honored as a living legend at the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and in 1998, she was honored with the Lionel Hampton Legacy Award. Jeannette was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 1999, and in 2002, she received the prestigious Paul Robeson Award from the Actor’s Equity Association. Jeanette, though retired, remained an active and celebrated member of the New York theater scene well into her nineties.

Jeannette passed away on April 4, 2018 at age 103.

See how Gertrude Hadley Jeannette is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Gertrude Hadley Jeannette's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette lists her favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette describes her mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette describes her maternal ancestors' life on the Cherokee reservation
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette describes her mother's upbringing
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette describes her father's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette describes how her parents met
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette describes her earliest childhood memory
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette describes her experiences in grade school
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette recalls her high school experience in Little Rock, Arkansas
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette recalls eloping with Joe Jeannette, II
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette describes reconciling with her parents after her marriage
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette recalls continuing her education in New York City
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette remembers becoming the first female motorcyclist in New York
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette remembers becoming the first female taxi driver in New York City
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette describes joining the American Negro Theater
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette recalls working in summer stock theater
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette describes her experiences with New York City's American Negro Theater
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette recalls her friendship with Frank Silvera
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette recalls appearing in 'Lost in the Stars' on Broadway
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette recalls touring with the musical 'Lost in the Stars'
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette recalls early African American movie stars
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette recalls the McCarthy Era
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette describes performing in 'The Little Foxes'
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette remembers Paul Robeson, pt. 1
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette remembers Paul Robeson, pt. 2
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette recalls appearing in James Baldwin's play, 'The Amen Corner'
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette reflects upon her Broadway acting career
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette describes her acting philosophy
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette describes founding the H.A.D.L.E.Y. Players
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette describes running the H.A.D.L.E.Y. Players in New York City, pt. 1
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette describes running the H.A.D.L.E.Y. Players in New York City, pt. 2
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette describes her concerns for African American theater
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette reflects upon her life
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette reflects upon her legacy
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette recalls African American prizefighters
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette reflects upon her family life
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette describes how she would like to be remembered
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette narrates her photographs, pt. 1
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette narrates her photographs, pt. 2
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette narrates her photographs, pt. 3